Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar's debut novel captures the heart-wrenching human tragedy of what's happening with Syria and Syrian refugees ... Joukhadar brings an intimacy to what is one of the stories of our age, and she does so with a language that leans heavily on the poetic ... Joukhadar’s prose is like a dream, which is fitting for this pair of stories.
In addition to colorful, synesthetic descriptions, Joukhadar starts some chapters with poems in the shapes of the countries Nour travels through. This imaginative yet very real look into war-torn Syria is a must.
There’s a dreamlike feel to these scenes, which don’t induce the stomach-churning trauma of watching a house and then an entire street annihilated on a television screen. When we come across a child with a mutilated ear, we connect with the horror but can’t fully feel it. More convincing are Joukhadar’s depictions of the anxiety and stress that bedevil the family as they become refugees ... Joukhadar’s confidence and joy in storytelling comes to life in the fantastical side of the novel ... What Joukhadar does beautifully is to connect, in a vivid and urgent way, Syria and the United States ... The Map of Salt and Stars is important and timely because it shows how interconnected two supposedly opposing worlds can be.
The Map of Salt and Stars is at once a testament to the brutality of the current Syrian conflict and a reverent ode to ancient Arabian history ... an audacious debut, ambitious and sprawling in both time and space ... There is a heartfelt quality to the story, evident in the meticulous historical research that must have gone into the creation of the ancient part of the book.